Managing forests in the Congo Basin sustainably
Title: Sustainable forest management in the Congo Basin
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Príncipe
Lead executing agency: Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC)
Overall term: 2005 to 2022
Tropical forests in the Congo Basin cover more than 180 million hectares - an area five times the size of Germany. It is the second largest tropical rainforest bloc after the Amazon rainforest. More than 65 million people are directly dependent on the forests for their livelihood. In addition, the forests are the habitat of more than 400 mammal species, more than 1,000 bird species and 20,000 plant species. Many plant and animal species are endemic to the Congo Basin. These include mountain gorillas, bonobos and okapis. The exotic hardwoods from the tropical forests of the Congo Basin are among the most important export goods of the region. At the same time, the remaining forests provide fruits and oil from wild plants and game to feed the local population. However, this natural heritage has been under threat for many decades due to demographic pressure, followed by woodland fragmentation, increasing poaching activities and climate change, all in addition to the lack of adequate governance structures and mechanisms. By the means of regionwide political coordination and cross-border cooperation in protected areas management, the threats on forest landscapes and their natural resources through illegal and uncontrolled exploitation can be curbed. In 2005, the heads of state of the Congo Basin countries met at the summit creating COMIFAC and, referring to the Yaoundé Declaration (1999), reaffirmed their determination to protect the forests and biodiversity in the Congo Basin and to implement the transnational convergence plan.
The Central African Forestry Commission (COMIFAC) is able to carry out its strategic and operational tasks effectively.
COMIFAC and its Executive Secretariat are tasked with creating the conditions for implementing the Convergence Plan. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been supporting COMIFAC since 2002. The current project works closely with the COMIFAC Executive Secretariat and focuses on two key themes: biodiversity conservation and forest governance.
The five key areas of actions are:
- Organisational development of COMIFAC
- Learning and knowledge transfer
- Increasing participation of indigenous people groups and local populations
- Strengthening forestry training
- Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol
The main innovation is the development and implementation of pilot initiatives and the use of existing know-how to achieve impacts at local and national levels. The project provides indigenous peoples and local populations with the necessary tools to improve their participation in the sustainable management of the natural environment. It supports the members of the relevant working groups in developing common positions for use in international negotiations.
The project's capacity development activities aim at improving the technical and organisational capacities of the major stakeholders of COMIFAC. Activities with COMIFAC's national coordination committees also aim to increase their visibility at the national and sub regional level. The project received co-funding from the European Union to improve the management structures of protected areas and to make use of the experiences gained on conservation and sustainable management of forests.
The project has contributed significantly to establish COMIFAC’s status as a regional authority. The member states and their international partners now implement forest and environmental policies and guidelines for sustainable forest management. All stakeholders recognise the mandate of COMIFAC Executive Secretariat to coordinate, implement, monitor and evaluate the regional forest programmes.
Because of this growing acceptance, COMIFAC can better voice its concerns and promote its agenda. This has improved sustainable forest policies in the region. It has also contributed to a better awareness for the need of forest certification and qualified forest management. Forest and environmental policies and legislations are now implemented in a coordinated manner. Protected area management has improved, and civil society engagement has increased. Moreover, approaches for a better use of resources that will result in poverty reduction have been developed.
Last update: March 2021